To post your novel online or not . . .

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Just a short post today. I'm sitting in an ICU room with a family member, and after two nights with snatches of sleep, I'm having a hard time stringing coherent thoughts together. So I'm sending you over to the very worthwhile blog of Kendra Merritt, a fantasy writer I met at a query workshop earlier this year.

Kendra is a writer full of amazing ideas. Her twist on fantasy includes main characters with disabilities. Kendra herself makes use of a wheelchair, the result of a spinal cord injury three months before her wedding. I can't wait to read her books when she's published. What fantastic plots she's concocted!

Her recent post shows her thought process as she's tried to decide whether or not to post some of her work online in order to get feedback. You know the argument: you need feedback to make it better, but what about all those people who are poised to snatch your words away? Kendra cuts through the confusion with some real wisdom and clarity on why you might want to post your work on your blog.

You might be interested in checking out more of Kendra's posts, like Breaking the Block (if you're experiencing writer's block), or What's In a Name?, where she includes a great link to search for names by meaning or country of origin. Definitely something I can use.

How do you feel about posting excerpts of your novel online? Would the benefits outweigh the risks?

Sushi Roll Novel Writing: figure out your strengths and weaknesses

We have a new restaurant in our town. A sushi restaurant. This is a big deal. Why? Because our little mountain town has its share of fast food and Mexican restaurants, but nothing so exotic as sushi. I love to go in to watch the sushi chef craft his amazing rolls.

It's kind of like arts and crafts. Take a sheet of nori and spread it with sticky rice. Add ingredients selected from the dizzying array on the list. Then it gets rolled and cut into adorable little chunks. 

Watching the rolls take shape got me thinking the other day. A novel is kind of like a sushi roll.

Think about it. Like sushi, all the ingredients of a novel: dialogue, character, setting, mood, etc. should be fresh and colorful and unique. Would a monochrome sushi roll look appetizing? Would you care for seconds if all the flavors were exactly the same? What makes sushi so popular is the combination of flavors and textures and colors all in one bite.

Alone, just avocado or nori or rice wouldn't be satisfying. Likewise, sparkling dialogue or an imaginative setting alone will not carry a novel. Writers need to polish every aspect of their craft and not rely only on the areas of their strengths. You may have dreamed up a great character, but without the rest of the picture, he'll stand alone. 

A lump of rice is not sushi.

Find out more about your strengths and weaknesses with these posts:

My strengths lie in characterization and mood. However, dialogue and setting are more challenging for me. How about you? What have you discovered about yourself in your writing journey?

Writing Tips for Everyone

The winner of the Writer's Retreat Kit from Friday's post is Jarm Del Boccio, who blogs at Making the Write Connections. Congratulations, Jarm! You'll be getting an email from me.

Today I have several posts to share with some great writing tips. They come from Eric over at Pimp My Novel, a great blog by a publishing insider. The blog has earned a spot on the Top 50 Creative Writing Blogs.

Browse around on Eric's blog. There's a lot of great information over there.
 What would be your biggest tip for new writers?

Book Review and Giveaway: The Writer's Retreat Kit: A Guide for Creative Exploration and Personal Expression

Maybe money is tight. Maybe you live in a far away place. Maybe your circumstances make it impossible to leave for a writer's conference. Check out The Writer's Retreat Kit: A Guide for Creative Exploration and Personal Expression, by Judy Reeves.

This book, which comes with a set of cards, offers writers twenty different themed retreats to plan. Each of them can be further personalized in four ways. Reeves gives specific instruction on how to plan your retreat, including how to bring other writers in, if you so choose. There are also plenty of exercises to get the muse humming.

Judy Reeves has written several books for writers, each one very practical. You may also enjoy her blog, The Lively Muse. She also offers several articles on writing at her website.

Last March I created a writing getaway for myself. Some of you might be feeling the need for one now that the weather is cooling and the summer craziness is ending. I've got a brand-new shrink-wrapped copy of The Writer's Retreat Kit just waiting to fly into someone's hands. Anybody want it? Just leave a comment with your email address by midnight on Friday. I'll post the winner on Monday.

Have you ever designed your own retreat? What would you do differently next time?

I touched a 400-year-old book yesterday

An original King James Bible
I love old books. I have a whole shelf full of vintage books, and I even own a history book from the 1600s. But yesterday I had the opportunity to turn the pages of an original King James Bible, printed on Gutenberg's printing press in 1611.

The book is in amazing condition for its age. The cover was replaced, but the pages are intact and easy to read. Because the paper was made from cotton (like money), it lasts a lot longer than paper made from wood pulp.

Of the four bibles I saw yesterday, the oldest was printed in the 1500s. All these bibles came with a guarantee of being burned at the stake if you so much as looked at them. You can imagine what happened to the men who translated and printed them. Yup.

These historic books are part of a traveling exhibit of volumes that show bibles throughout history. Included in the show are pieces of of the Dead Sea scrolls and cuneiform tablets with Old Testament writings. Also shown are ancient coins, pictographs, medieval rabbinic scrolls, and even hand-written commentaries from Martin Luther.

The Bible Through History show will run in Colorado Springs at the Glen Eyrie castle from September 1-12, 2012. If you're in the area, it's a fantastic history lesson, and not just for people of faith. Imagine if your own self-publishing efforts put your life in danger.  
How motivated would you be to get your books into print?
The guide holding the 1500s bible. The King James is the largest one.

Back-to-life Motivation

Just a quick post today. We're celebrating my daughter's 21st birthday, and her return to college. We'll head out to a drive-in movie with a huge cheesecake to share.

I'm all about motivating myself to write these days. With a summer full of family activities, home renovation, fires, and mudslides, it's hard to find the same energy to write that I had in the spring. One of the reasons is that I haven't met with any of my critique groups for a while. It's time to get those meetings back on the schedule.

For today, here's a fantastic post from author and writing teacher Les Edgarton's blog. He's the author of Hooked, a great writing book focused on hooking the reader. In this post, Edgarton shares the story of one of his writing students, where she realizes she has really become a writer. It took hard work, and she has an incredibly busy life, but she did it. And now she has an agent and a multi-book to go along with her work ethic. 

How's your motivation during these back to school days? Did you get more writing done during the summer, or are you looking forward to a solid fall schedule?

The Olympics vs. Novel Writing

My son Daniel at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.
Why have most of us been glued to the Olympic games the past few weeks? Is it just because it occurs only once every couple of years? 

I think it's more than that.

We get pulled into the athletes lives. We worry about them. Their prospects, their injuries, their personal challenges.

We felt the incredible disappointment when Jordyn Wieber didn't make the all around in gymnastics. We cringed when Jen Kessy had to take a medical timeout from her volleyball competition to warm her freezing feet. We rooted for runner Oscar Pistorius whose legs were amputated at age eleven months and for Cullen Jones, who learned to swim after a near drowning.

We see (thanks to the media) glimpses of the athletes' backstory--but not too much. If all the coverage was about the athletes' history, and not about what they're accomplishing or attempting right now, the backstory would have little meaning. It's the slice of backstory that adds depth to the individual's character, adds meaning to their goals, and makes their victories and triumphs so easy to share.

How about your novel? 

Is it so weighed down by backstory that your character doesn't do much except think about the past? All the Olympic athletes wouldn't have made it to London if they spent their time agonizing over their challenges or the unfairness of life. Let your character be impacted by his or her history. Let it make them stronger, more vulnerable, more fallible, but don't let it consume them and keep them from moving forward.

Is it too free of backstory? A character who acts without any connection to their past, their baggage, their life lessons, is not three-dimensional. What if the media only covered what the athletes did in the 'now', and ignored what they've overcome to get to that point? Watching elite athletes win medals would be a whole lot less compelling. It's the emotion we watch on the medal stand that tugs at our hearts. Seeing the athlete realize success after so many years of hard work, deprivation, and focus pulls us into their story. Are you so fearful of including backstory that you miss this connection to your readers' hearts?

For more information on creating unobtrusive backstory, check out this series titled "Making Your Reader Love Backstory" by author and writing teacher Randy Ingermanson. His four-part series will make you a backstory expert.

Read through your manuscript with balance in mind. A balance between enough backstory to give meaning to your character's present actions, decisions, failures and successes. Have the Olympics inspired your writing in other ways?

It's Time for WriteOnCon: a free online writing conference

It's that time again. A conference for those of us who don't have tons of money, tons of time, or who live so far out that flying to a writing conference is out of the question. WriteOnCon is back. On August 14th and 15th, writers will engage through thirty-five workshops, forums, keynotes, and live events.

One of the coolest things WriteOnCon is doing this year is called Ninja Agents. In this forum, you can post your writing sample or query letter, and one of thirteen agents will stop in from time to time and post comments. It's possible to get agent requests from this forum. Even if you attended an in-person conference, you'd be hard-pressed to pitch to that many agents.

 Who are the Ninja Agents? Here's a list (links are to those highlighted on Agent Friday posts):

Natalie Fischer, with Bradford Literary
Michelle Andelman, with Regal Literary
Kathleen Ortiz, with Nancy Coffey Literary
Ammi-Joan Paquette, with Erin Murphy Literary
Jessica Sinsheimer, with Sarah Jane Freymann
Roseanne Wells, with Marianne Strong Literary
Joanna Volpe, with Nancy Coffey Literary
Weronika Janczuk, with Lynn C. Franklin
Suzie Townsend, with FinePrint Literary
Carlie Webber, with the Jane Rotrosen Agency
Alyssa Eisner Henkin, with Trident Media
Marietta Zacker, with Nancy Gallt Literary
Kat Salazar, with Larsen Pomada Literary Agents

 Some of the workshops and sessions planned this year are:
* How to Get Started With Social Media: DON’T Do All The Things!
* Choosing the Right Critique Partners
* Hooks and Killer First Lines
* Picture Book Query Critiques 
* What is Voice, and How do I Get it?
* World-building in Science Fiction and Fantasy
* Plotting with 3×5 cards
* Building Characters into Real People
* He Said, She Said, Creating sexual tension through dialog
* Differences between YA and MG and the challenges of writing both
* The Inside Scoop: Get Your Query Noticed
~and there's lots more.

Want to join in? Here are the basics:
Click here for the super-quick registration.
Check out the amazing faculty here and here.

Do you think you'll attend? I've already got several workshops marked down. And if your schedule won't allow you to participate live, just check the forums when you can. Everything will still be there.

How to create an online newspaper from your tweets

 Today we have a guest post from Dianne E. Butts, an author and screenwriter. I had never heard of before, and Butts explains it so well. I've been reading her newsletter for several years, and she always posts helpful information. All her newsletter articles are on her blog, Dianne E. Butts About Writing, if you'd like to check it out.
Image courtesy of Stock.xchng

Twitter and, by Dianne E. Butts

Last month we talked about Making the Most of Twitter including how to write effective Tweets, the 3 Parts every good Tweet needs, and programs that will schedule your Tweets for you.

Another exciting program I've learned about since then uses your Twitter Tweets to create an online newspaper! Some of you many already know about (

I had seen a few's, but I didn't know much about them. Then recently author and speaker Linda Evans Shepherd set up a few of these papers and taught me more about them. I so appreciate Linda! I've known her since my very first writer's conference more than twenty years ago. Linda has written more than thirty books and has been a mentor to me for all those twenty years I've known her. Let me tell you what I've learned from Linda about in the past couple of months, and I'll use her's as examples. is a daily newspaper system that picks up links off of Twitter to create the newspaper. I haven't set one up yet, but it seems you can put in the Twitter handles of the people whose Twitters you want to include. So, for example, Linda set up The AWSA Daily and included the Twitter handles of the members of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. That includes me! ;-)

So now, searches the Tweets from AWSA members searching for links, and when it finds them, it compiles them into a newspaper!

Is it legal? Yes. Is it plagiarism? No, because the paper doesn't use your whole article, it only picks up the first few sentences (within fair use) and then links to your article. So people who want to read your article are taken straight to the source.

How to get in: Just a Tweet will not do. You must include a link to an article to get into the newspaper. It will pick up photos in the articles you link to also.

Please note that the creator of the newspaper has absolutely no control over which Twitter links of yours get picked up. And when they are picked up, they cannot be removed. So don't put a link in your Twitter that you might find embarrassing later and you'll have nothing to worry about. (But, honestly, you shouldn't be doing that anyway, right?)

You don't have to be informed that you're Twitter handle is in some one's I first started seeing's a year or so ago when my articles starting showing up in one about Colorado writers. I think maybe someone sent me a link to the Yeah,I was surprised. I had no idea why...or how...I got in that paper. Now I know!

You can subscribe to's. They're free. Here's another one of Linda's. Look for the "Subscribe" button in the upper right corner: The Shepherd Post. As a matter of fact, why don't you subscribe for a while so you can see how this works? You can always unsubscribe if you don't want it any more.

You can choose whether you want your's to come out daily, twice daily, or weekly. I believe all of Linda's are daily papers.

I can hear that questions you're asking: So how can I use this to benefit my writing? Here are several ideas:
* Getting more exposure for your online blogs and articles in an obvious answer, but there's more.
* You can make your own's. Create one for your organization, a topic that is your passion, or the topic you write on. Then your own writings will get featured in your own
Create a that serves people on an issue that is close to your heart. Another one of Linda's's is all about suicide prevention: ThinkingAboutSuicide.
Do you need ideas or resources for your writing? Then subscribe to's on topics that interest you and have a daily feed of resources.

When you find you've been included in a, use it's Twitter link to Tweet a link to that issue. Retweet when other's Tweet your favorite or one you're featured in. And use the Facebook share button to send a post to your Facebook account.

Remember, for to pick up your articles, you must Tweet it and include a link to your article. searches for links, and picks them up at random.

Whether you want exposure for your own writing, need information coming to you to use for your own writing, or see other uses for, it is a great resource and it is great fun to see your articles featured in them! Start a have fun!

Dianne E. Butts has been writing for periodicals for twenty years with 300 articles published in more than 50 Christian print magazines and has contributed to nineteen books. Her latest book, Deliver Me, offers hope for those in an unexpected pregnancy by sharing true stories of others in that position. Her first book, Dear America: A Letter of Comfort and Hope to a Grieving Nation, written after 9/11, shares what she's learned about getting through grief, why she still believes in God even when horrible things happen, the story of the gospel, how to go on with God, who the Muslims are...and more. She's ridden motorcycles for more than thirty years. Member: Christian Motorcyclists Association. Member Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.

RWA Keynote Speech

 If you weren't one of the many who attended the Romance Writers of America conference recently, you might be interested in this keynote address by author Stephanie Laurens. She has generously posted her keynote and the accompanying powerpoint slides on her website.

Laurens' post, titled Weathering the Transition . . . Keeping the Faith, is a wonderful analysis of publishing today, and how it differs from the model in the past. She shares how there are actually four different avenues in the online publishing industry where stories are passed from the author to the reader. There used to be only one way the reader received stories from an author. Times are changing. 

Laurens also points out that of the list of authors, publishers, retailers, and readers, only two are absolutely critical. Can you guess which ones?

This transcript is a perfect read for those who are mulling over going the self-publishing route. Check it out and let me know what you think.


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